I just got back from a memorial for Lee Weng Kee, actor and friend, who passed on, 10th Feb this year, from pneumonia.
I received an sms on the day telling me that Weng Kee had passed away that afternoon. And it didn’t strike me till much later, that I had had a dream 2 nights before about a man, who was involved in the local theatre scene, passing on. I even had a journal entry to prove it. Weird.
Weng Kee and I worked together probably twice in the 7 years that I knew him, which also happens to be the rough amount of time I’ve been doing what I do. He was, strangely enough, one of the first few people that I met in the industry; a straight talking, older dude. Which made it easy for us to get along.
Although we hardly worked together, over the years, we stole conversations through random meetings at events when we shared cab or car rides home afterward. Those 20 minute conversations covered the important and completely mundane things happening in our lives, where we thought the industry was going, and sometimes his not so great health. And I appreciated his candour and matter-of-fact view of existence. Bordering on cynicism, but not quite, because in our conversations about the industry, he would complain about the way things were and how we should try and improve, and you don’t do that unless you still have hope.
My fondest memory of Weng Kee happened in 2005, sitting on top of Ann Siang Hill, in front of what used to be RAW, a gentlemens’ sauna, at 8.30 in the morning. We were working on the tv series “jiu chen gao” (9 layered cake). The crew were filming another scene in the pathway below us, and so the 2 of us were left there to wait. And wait. And wait.
Over the next 2 and something hours, as we chatted, he gave me the lowdown on gay culture and history in Singapore from his perspective, patiently answering my questions and sharing insights with me. The entire time, men of all ages, shapes and types would occasionally stroll in or out of RAW. And I remember thinking to myself, “at 8.30 in the morning? What the…???”
We were so engrossed in our conversation, and the tv crew so engrossed in their filming that both forgot about each other. They left, in the bus, without us, and when they realised they’d left us behind, called our mobiles in a panic. Now, being the “responsible” actors that we both were, our phones were in our bags, on silent, so we didn’t hear their calls. We only realised they’d abandoned us when the production assistant came running back up the hill, heart in mouth, to look for us. Boy, did we have a good chuckle over that one. Not the production team. Just Weng Kee and me.